Zinc is a vital micronutrient that’s often overlooked. Zinc supports numerous enzymes in the body, strengthens the immune system, and helps with wound healing, synthesis of DNA, and normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

It’s associated with many problems when deficient, including thyroid abnormality, acne, infertility (mainly in men due to decreased sperm count), decreased immune system, thinning hair, rashes, loss of appetite, weight loss, growth impairment, delayed wound healing, and even depression.

Zinc is often used in the treatment of acute colds and macular (eye) degeneration. Medication like birth control pills, antibiotics, and over-the-counter antacids can impair zinc function over time.

There’s another side to this, as well, when too much exposure to zinc can cause toxicity as well as disrupt copper and iron storage. Zinc is often found in paint, dyes, and ointments. It causes GI upset, confusion, as well as rashes. Studies also link excess zinc to prostate cancer.

So, I stress having your integrative and functional care provider check your zinc levels before you start any over-the-counter supplements because you may not need them.

Side effects of taking oral zinc can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headache, lethargy, and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. So I always encourage taking the supplement with food but prefer patients get it naturally through foods.

Here are some top food options to ensure you are getting adequate zinc in your diet:

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